Pixie Build Evening

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Yet another brilliantly fantastic night at the Swindon & District Amateur Radio Club. Earlier in the year, the club implemented an incentive whereby members were asked to take part in a ‘bulk build’ of Pixie, 40m, QRP, CW Transceivers.

These are inexpensive kits and only take a couple of hours to build. The idea behind the incentive was to engage club members and get them into building their own equipment, putting their electronics knowledge and practical skills to good use, but most of all to have a bit of fun in the hobby.

Nearly a quarter of the club members decided to take part and get involved and a total of 17 kits were ordered for these members. They were all given a couple of months to complete their kits and this evening the club ran a ‘Bring, Show and Test’ evening to test and review all the kits that had been built.

An enthusiastic crowd turned up at the club this evening, with a copious amount of test equipment to assist with the testing of the Pixie kits. The mood at the club this evening was one of excitement and anticipation whilst builders waited for their kits to be tested and reviewed.

Out of the 17 kits handed out, 11 of them made it for testing this evening. A few were missing due to members being unavailable or on holiday, etc. but we thought that 11 was a pretty good turnout.

Each kit was tested on two test sets. One was checking TX output and audio tone on a receiver, with CW guru Phil, M0PBZ providing some impressive CW keying on both a straight and paddle key to test the transceivers. The other test set was again measuring TX output and basic RX sensitivity. Finally, each kit was inspected for build quality. This wasn’t to be critical, but more to provide some feedback to the builders. As it happens, the build quality was pretty excellent on all of the kits, with only one having a fault, which we believe was down to a dry joint; unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to fully diagnose, but we’ll get it sorted.

The TX power from all the kits were all pretty close, with a fairly uniform range between 780mW and 850mW at 12 volts and most of the receivers had a sensitivity of 15 micro-volts.

Thanks to Andrew, M1CJE, and Darren, G1ERM for providing the test kit, as well as the other members who also brought along power supplies and other test equipment. It was a great club collaboration.

Tonight was what Amateur Radio is all about. Construction, Testing, Camaraderie, Discussion, Banter; An overall excellent, productive, and enjoyable evening.

We now have plans afoot to put the kits to good use and get them all on the air during another club evening.

Thanks to all the kit builders; without you, this evening would not have been possible. Also thanks to the other club members who didn’t build kits, but showed equal interest and enthusiasm in the project.

Kit Builders:

Mark, M0KYB
Bob, G0VTA
Andrew, M1CJE
Chris, 2E0GGU
Chris, G4AJA
Roy, G4VWG
Paul, G0EPC
Graham, G4OED
John, G1VRJ
Elwyn, G8EFK
Mike, G4HGV

Construction Competition 2024

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We had some excellent entries for this year’s construction competition.

Here are a few photos of the entries. The results will be updated here in due course.

G4AJAHomebrew/ProfessionalEFLW ATUX
G1ERMHomebrew/Novice12v Power DistributionX
M0KYBAntenna23CM Colinear
M0KYBKitPowerpole Distribtion
M0KYBHybridBalanced Mode SpeakerX
M0KYBKitMorserino CW Trainer
G0EPCHomebrew/LegacyMorseman CW TrainerX
M1CJEKitQMX QRP TransceiverX
M1CJEHomebrewCW Capacitive Paddle
M1CJEAntennaLinked Dipole (20m – 6m)
M1CJESoftware/HomebrewCW KeyerX
G4OEDAntenna23CM Loop Quad YagiX
G4OEDHomebrew40m Low Pass Filter

The ‘Go-Pack’ Challenge 2024

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  • To design and build an innovative “Go Pack” radio system that is portable, independent & self-sufficient.
  • The “Go Pack” could be used to support a local emergency.
  • To demonstrate the “Go Pack” in operation on an agreed day in Summer 2024.


Design & build to start NOW (Feb 2024) with operational demonstration in July/Aug 2024. (to be agreed)


1Go Packs to be carryable, independent, and self-sufficient.Movement of kit from vehicle to demo pitch should be done in one journey if possible.
2Go Packs to be based around ‘bags’ or ‘boxes’.Typically, one or two bags (eg one for the radio + a 2nd for the battery). Add chair & table to complete.
Go Packs may be ‘switch on & go’ in nature or require components to be unpacked & connected.
3Go Packs can be designed & built for use on
any band(s), mode(s), or power.
Go Packs currently in existence are valid.
For demonstration day purposes, RF is restricted to 10 watts IERP (to avoid EMF assessments).
4DC Power to be exclusively from battery, solar, wind, or any mix of these.Petrol/gas generators not permitted.
5The Go Pack could be used in support of a local emergency.How this could be applied to a local emergency is at the discretion of the builder, but operability for 3 to 4 hours might be a worthy consideration.
6The radio equipment must be wholly contained in the Go Pack.No remote operation (eg with home or with a car).
7No use of trees, telegraph or lamp posts, or
buildings. The operator brings their table & chair.
This includes the radio, any accessories, aerial & supports, power source etc.
8No operational use of any vehicle.No vehicle power, no vehicle aerial mounts, no use of an in-vehicle radio.
9No use of local structures for aerial support.No use of trees, telegraph or lamp posts, or buildings. The operator brings their own table & chair.
10Each Go Pack is to be explained via a video or photographic ‘document’ for later use..The ‘document’ for each entry will be presented in the autumn at the Club for others’ appreciation. The ‘document’ could show the pack’s construction or simply explain the finished product.
11The Go Packs will be demonstrated in
operation and explained to members present during an agreed Demo Day.
The Demo is to be convened in a park or similar outdoor open space (to be decided) on a weekend in either July or August 2024 (to be decided).
Depending on location/cost/logistics, a family BBQ may be integrated into the day (to be agreed).
12The Operability of the Go Pack may be demonstrated with a simplex QSO or via a repeater, DMR Gateway, or satellite.The Go Pack could itself be a dedicated repeater – or a beacon. The demo in this case could be linked to it with a handheld.
13Each Go Pack will be ‘judged’ by those members present against the Aims above using criteria determined by each voting member.Each Member present will be given 3 voting slips which they can award in any combination to any Go Pack. Members exhibiting a Go Pack will be given a 4th voting slip. No exhibitor self-voting.
14Votes will be counted at the end of the demo day and 1st, 2nd & 3rd place awards announced.Actual votes cast will not be announced (in case I get none!).
15The top 3 exhibitors will be presented with Certificates recognising their achievements.Certificates will be presented at the Christmas Dinner.

Members’ Construction Competition Rules 2024

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Soldering Iron

We are holding the Construction Competition on March 14th!

The aim of this annual contest is to encourage members to build either radio equipment or ancillary items which enhance their radio operations and to exhibit these to encourage others to follow their example.

Entries can include any radio-related equipment or software, for example, Morse oscillator, test unit, QRP rig, computer/radio interface, PSU, Tx/Rx, linear, antenna, ATU…..

Entries can have been built at any time, but to be accepted as an entry, they must not have been entered in any previous SDARC construction contest.

If YOU have built something that helps you operate, why not enter it?  Remember it is not necessarily the most complex equipment that wins!

Provide sufficient details with your entry to help judges understand the purpose and operation of the entry…. ”Sell” the concept and its usefulness through your description, diagrams, circuits etc!

The contest will have five principal categories:-

Homebrew – This will be for equipment built completely by the club member. (If the equipment is a magazine project with a PCB available, then, the PCB may be used.)

Kit – This will be for equipment built from a kit. The kit should require some soldering to the component level.

Hybrid – This will be for homebrew equipment which also contains one or more kits.

Antenna – This will be for special homebrew antenna systems. For this type of contest entry, the member will just need to provide photographs of the antenna together with a specification, a drawing, and details of the construction. A list of countries worked with the antenna should also be provided.

Software – This category will be for radio-related software. This can be either, a new piece of “stand-alone” software, or a piece written to add extra features to some existing software.

In addition, three Constructor categories may be brought to bear:-

Novice – This will be for those members who have not previously built or exhibited any equipment.

GeneralThis will be for those members who have built and entered previously.

Professional – This may be awarded to experienced constructors whose work is of an exceptional standard.

The number of Awards will reflect the scope of entries and may include awards made to deal with tie-break situations.

The judges’ decisions on all the awards are final.

Please complete an entry form beforehand so you can bring it on the night. You can download the entry form here.

Den’ ACMs Proposal

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Den’ ACMs Proposal at Club, 18th January, focused on creating a 2024 Award which required the ‘construction’ and ‘operation’ of a fully portable and structurally independent  “Go Box” or “Go Bag”  based ham station.

Having outlined that we most often operate from either our shack (whether a bench under the stairs or a dedicated ‘funkraum’) or /Portable with the car assisting with power and often aerial support, Den laid down the challenge to use the winter and spring of 2024 to ‘build’ an independent “go box” station which is stand alone and independent in terms of power and aerial support structures. 

The proposal saw the winter ‘construction’ phase culminating in a summer weekend ‘show and demo’ day – a  get-together in a local park – maybe with a wider social (picnic/BBQ) component added in.

To ensure the challenge empowers as many members as possible, the proposed structure would allow members to build an ‘any band, any mode(s), any power, any purpose’ fully portable but independent station and that on the ‘demo day’ all members attending get the chance to be the Judges – evaluating and voting for what they consider to be the ‘best’ station – criteria to be agreed.

Reporting the morning after the Talk,  it was clear that the proposal sparked members’ imaginations and a show of hands after the Talk revealed over half of the 23 members present intended to build and enter for this Award.

After some really broad and useful discussions around rules, boundaries, and assessment criteria, it was agreed to schedule a ’round table’ discussion evening into the Club calendar in a  couple of weeks to agree on the “rules” and enable members to start planning and ‘building’ their chosen “go box” or “go bag” solution.

Our last meeting at Pinetrees before the summer break.

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This week we will be planning for VHF NFD and discussing the new OFCOM consultation.

Please remember we are meeting at Barbury Castle throughout July and August. You’re welcome to bring your radio kit and operate /p.

British Science Week 2023

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As mentioned at the club, Simon, G4WQG, the RSGB Area 10 Rep. and I attended Swindon UTC to not only represent SDARC, but also the RSGB at the start of British Science Week.

We were demonstrating Amateur Radio and RF communications to the local Swindon University Technical College students and tutors by setting up the Special Event Station, GB2BSW.

We operated both Voice and Data modes whilst talking to the students, many of whom were extremely engaged with what we were doing and plenty of questions being asked.

We used the club Kenwood TS-590S, set to 50w, and a 40m inverted V antenna, made by myself fed with a 1:1 Balun at the centre. The antenna was mounted on a 10m Spiderpole, which wasn’t fully extended and was bungeed to the stair handrail at the back of the college. The antenna performed absolutely brilliantly and tuned perfectly and amazingly across all bands using the TS-590S inbuilt ATU. It provide a 1:1 match across 80m, 40m, 30m, 20m, 17m, 15m 12m, and 10m, which was incredible.

On FT8 we were being heard out in Australia and across to the East coast of America by numerous stations.

We worked 64 QSOs, 23 Countries of which 19 have been confirmed on QRZ so far.
Furthest DX was Japan, JE1NVD on FT8.

We also worked several UK stations on Phone on 40m which the students found particularly interesting.

We had an absolutely fantastic day and were greeted well by the staff, tutors, and students. At the end of the day, we had a discussion about returning and possibly providing some interactive electronic construction during the day. Hopefully will be a good ongoing relationship with the college and inspire some of the local youths.

Dom, 2E0WHQ

Construction Competition 2023 – Winners

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Congratulations to all the winners of the Construction Competition.

  • 2E0CYS – Peter – Function Generator (KIT)
  • G4OED – Graham – Morse Key (Homebrew)
  • G0EPC – Paul – 9:1 Balun (Antenna)

Paul also brought in a 160M and 2M radio he built many years ago to show.